20% of kids 5-11 in Waterloo region are booked to get their first COVID-19 vaccine

There are approximately 50,000 children between the ages of five and 11 in Waterloo region and so far, more than 10,000 are booked to get their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Region seeing 'small but steady increase' in daily cases, Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang says

Sisters Raya, 7, and Sky, 5, are shown getting a first dose of the pediatric Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in Waterloo, Ont., on Friday. (Submitted by Region of Waterloo Public Health)

More than 20 per cent of the roughly 50,000 children aged five to 11 in Waterloo are booked in for an appointment to receive their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. 

The region began administering first doses to this age group on Friday, exactly a week after Health Canada approved the Pfizer-BioNTech pediatric vaccine for that use.

The vaccine bookings come as medical officer of health Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang says the region is seeing a "small but steady increase" in daily COVID-19 case rates. That's been leading to more outbreaks, including at workplaces and schools, Wang said.

The vaccine "help keep [kids] in school and doing the activities that they enjoy," Wang said at a briefing Friday.

Dr. Matthew Purser, a pediatrician at Cambridge Memorial Hospital, said the vaccine for children is welcome news.

Children between five and 11 are now one of the highest populations with confirmed COVID-19 infections, Purser said, though he noted that rates of pediatric hospitalizations due to the virus have remained low.

"For months now, many of us have been waiting for an effective and safe vaccine in our younger age groups."

Clinics ready for children

Vickie Murray, the region's vaccine services director, said that as of Thursday afternoon, 10,500 appointments for children had been booked at regional clinics — with another 20,000 available to kids before Dec. 12. 

Parents or caregivers have to book appointments for their children; they can also book second dose appointments eight weeks after a child's first dose.

Vickie Murray, the region's vaccine services director, is seen here speaking during a regular media briefing on Friday. She says the region's vaccination clinics have been made more child-friendly with new signs, colourful artwork and sensory safe spaces. (Region of Waterloo/YouTube)

Murray said the vaccine clinics are designed to make kids feel comfortable when they're getting immunized, including posting colourful artwork and "sensory safe spaces."

There are two confirmed school-based clinics: 

  • Dec. 2 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at St. Peter's Catholic Elementary School in Cambridge.
  • Dec. 4 from 9:15 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. at Queensmount Public School in Kitchener.

Public health expects to announce more school-based clinics shortly, Murray said, and pharmacies and doctors' offices in the region have also now received the vaccine doses for children. 

49 new COVID cases

On Friday, Region of Waterloo Public Health reported 49 new COVID-19 cases.

Wang said it's not unexpected to see cases rising as people have moved indoors.

Portrait of woman
Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang is Waterloo region's medical officer of health. (Carmen Groleau/CBC)

"I'm actually grateful in a sense that it hasn't accelerated as rapidly as it could have," Wang said, noting the delta variant is "highly transmissible."

But Wang said that even a slow rise in cases is concerning. She noted that there are signs that people are not practising public health precautions and urged residents to stay the course. 

There are 248 active cases reported in the region. There were 11 people infectious with COVID-19 in the region's three hospitals. There were four people in the intensive care unit and the region noted these people may no longer be infectious, but do still require specialized care.

There were 11 outbreaks in the region. There was one outbreak at a school:

  • Blessed Sacrament Catholic Elementary School with 19 cases. The school is currently closed to in-person learning.

There was one child-care outbreak and nine in workplaces:

  • Jacob Hespeler Riverside Child Care Centre with two cases.
  • Apostolic Faith Mission in Kitchener with five cases.
  • A trade workplace with four cases.
  • A career, skills and training workplace with four cases.
  • A chiropractic office with three cases.
  • A manufacturing workplace with two cases.
  • A transportation workplace with two cases.
  • A retail store with two cases.
  • A hockey-related outbreak with two cases.
  • A gym with two cases.